Writing Structure for the new year – or anytime…

I wrote this for the Fellowship of Christian Writers newsletter – The Ready Writer. I thought it would be appropriate to revisit the topic with the new year almost upon us.

Fall – Time to Think Structure

As I write this article, it is late August and the leaves on some trees are foreshadowing the next season. This time of year brings thoughts of starting school, swinging into the beginning of the end of the year. This year has been a very busy one for me with family issues at the forefront and my writing has moved to a seriously far back burner. Maybe yours has too. But, I am looking forward to cooler temperatures and carving out more time for my writing.

In order to make that time more productive, there are things that I can do right now to begin planning for that.

First, I can begin thinking about how to carve out the time I need to write. Most mornings, I am headed out to work and that is not a good time for me to try to get my head into whatever story I am working on except, perhaps, for making a few notes on ideas I had overnight. My best time for writing seems to be either just before or an hour or two after dinner during the week. Early Saturday afternoons are good also. Sometimes, I write at really odd times. I wrote one short story sitting in the car while my wife went blueberry picking. Setting and keeping a regular daily time is what I am aiming for here. Setting a time, word or page count may come into the mix as well. Establishing a habit is what needs to happen for me.

You need to figure out what time works best for you. Every one of us is different. Regularity can be good in lots of different ways.

Second, I can think about where I write best. As I mentioned above, I wrote one story while sitting in the car. I have also found myself unusually productive sitting in a coffee shop surrounded by noisy people and loud music. I have noise reduction headphones I use that block out other sounds and allow me to just listen to the music I selected for my writing. Most often, though, I write at home. in a home office. I have also used a chair or tray in the family room to hold my laptop. For a short period of time, I used a board set up on my bed to hold the laptop while I sat in a chair. (This is how Francis Schaeffer wrote most of his books.) The actual location is not as important as how productive you are in that location. Right now my office is all cluttered up. I need to clear away some clutter and make it a more focused work space.

Try different spots. See what works best for you.

Third, I need to focus on what I am going to write. I have had two books swirling around in my head and, to some degree, written down in short story form along with a bunch of outlined notes. I wanted to expand them into full length books but kept getting stalled. I set those aside earlier this year to focus on writing short children’s stories for a magazine. I really set my sights on getting published in that magazine. Those of you in the FCW critique group got to read them. But, none of them were accepted. Then I saw a contest for a story about fairies and elves. My imagination jumped into high gear. I have been working on that story for several months and it is long past the deadline but…I still love the story. I have switched over to doing some serious outlining and want to integrate what I have learned from K.M. Weiland’s new book Structuring Your Novel. http://goo.gl/QymLLW I was knocked off my stool while reading her book about structure and really want to try it for this project.

What about you? Have you got some book in your head you’ve kept on the back burner for a long time. Got a fresh idea that just won’t let you go? Got some magazine articles you have been dying to write?

Let’s recap now…

  1. Take some time to get yourself organized. Figure a time (or times) that you can regularly devote to your writing. Jerry Bridges said that he wrote his wonderful book “Trusting God” in the “nooks and crannies” of a very busy life. Some people write only in short 15 minute bursts.

  1. Stake out a place to do your writing. Put your family on notice that when you are there you are working and they better be on fire before they interrupt you. (Just joking.) Try to find a place where you can be more or less alone and free from distractions.

  1. Determine what project you want to work on and see it through to the end. Persevere. Persist. Finish what you start.

Above all, pray. Pray for His guidance for inspiration as you set your goals and to honor your efforts to honor Him with your work.

Exercise your gift…

Below is a re post of an article I wrote for the Fellowship of Christian Writers newsletter, The Ready Writer. I thought it appropriate on a day we are all trying to figure out how to use our new Christmas gifts.

You Shall Write… “it is the gift of God…”

With Christmas approaching, a lot of people are thinking about gifts. The hustle and the bustle of the blessed season sometimes cause us to lose focus on either the ultimate gift giver, the ultimate gift or His gifts we have already received.

God has uniquely gifted each one of us as writers. I believe that we are gifted in order to bring glory to God. I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents where three men were given different amounts of His money for safekeeping while He was away. Several observations can be made in application to Christian writers.

Mat 25:14  “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.

One The gift of writing we have been entrusted with belongs to the Lord. In the parable, the man entrusts his own money to his servants. The same is true of our gift of writing. It is His. But, He has entrusted it to us. It is of great value. Trust the Lord that He has given you something extraordinary and special. Because He did this, He also has a plan for us to use it.  What we have is not something that someone can just go out and get. It is not something that we could make for ourselves. It is a gift. It is a talent. It can be a means of exercising other gifts like teaching or encouraging or evangelism. Because of that we need to work on it and hone it so that it shines, so that it can be used properly and effectively. But first, we must choose to recognize, acknowledge and use the gift.

Mat 25:15  He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

Two The gift He has given to each of us is unique and different from what He has given to others. In the Parable, the man gave different amounts of money to each man in proportion to their abilities. Some of us write small things like articles and short stories, some of us edit and proof read, others write novel after novel. Some people think that novelists are the only real writers. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to write in the novel format and failed each time. I lose interest in the story or can’t drag it out that long. I have another friend who says that she couldn’t write anything but novels. While I was trying to write novels, the well of ideas dried up and the words just would not come. It was like trying to ride uphill on a bicycle with a flat tire against the wind. I kept telling myself, if I was just a better writer, I could do this. Eventually, I just stopped writing at all. Then, this thought came to me. What was I writing when I enjoyed it and did it everyday? I thought about that for a bit and said, “ok, if I go back to what I was doing before, what would I write?” An idea popped into my head and I got excited about writing all over again. When I sat down to write, I popped out 1,000 words my first session. Since then, my enthusiasm has returned and research for the story is not a drag. If I am going with the gift what

Mat 25:19  “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money.

Three The Lord expects us to put the gift to work. He will ask us for an accounting of how we put his gift to work. I believe that God wants us to use our gifts to bring glory and honor to Him. That will mean different things to each one of us. For some of you, it could mean writing notes of encouragement. To others, it could mean writing devotional stories, Bible studies or poems. To still others, it could mean writing novels, short stories or Sunday school lessons/curriculum. Don’t put it off. Don’t listen to the lie that you’re not as good as so and so. Write more. Get better. Put the gift to work. Bathe your writing in prayer. Keep Him in mind as you write.

And, no matter what you write. Write it to glorify God. He is the giver of the gift. Let’s give Him a good report of how we used our gift so we can hear this from Him.

Mat 25:23  “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’